Keto libido: Keto diet effects on libido
I see many women in my practice as a Nutritionist using a Macrobiotic approach with insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas to cope with the body’s response to sugar. It actually protects your body from getting too much sugar (glucose); the prime fuel which gives you energy. And insulin resistance is a precursor to getting diabetes. Insulin takes sugar out of your blood and send it to your cells to be used as energy. For example, when you eat a meal with carbohydrates (sugars, these could be good carbohydrates like a brown rice or a millet; or bad carbohydrates like white bread), the body copes with this sugar by absorbing it for the cells, or there is a surge in sugars which the body cannot absorb and more insulin is pushed out than normal. Your insulin receptors on every cell and opens up the doors of the cell to let the sugar get in. The normal functioning of this system, keep your sugars normal. Sometimes this normal functioning stops because of excess insulin and the cells get resistant to insulin, this is when insulin resistance happens. Many factors can cause insulin resistance, what are these?
What is the keto diet and what happens when on it?
In a ketogenic diet, you get more calories from protein (15-30%) and fat (60-80%), than carbohydrates (5-10%). You cut back all the sugar, soda, refined flour and junk; when you eat less than 50 grams of carbs a day, your body runs out of blood sugar that it usually uses. This is the time you start to breakdown protein and fat for energy, which then impacts your weight. It has been known to help with some issues, especially type 1 diabetes and will help you shed weight faster than most other diets, especially in the initial 3 to 6 months. Since a keto diet makes your body use all the stored sugar as fuel, this also impacts the hormone insulin. These low levels may help protect you against cancers, and also heart disease (low levels of insulin, makes for lesser cholesterol in the body).
There are downsides to the keto diet as well – for starters, the initial phase of when you switch off sugars is always hard (keto flu which may bring in headaches, fever, irritability, fatigue, and a lot of people get this: bad breath), and a lot of people give up at this time. It may make you constipated and indigestion.
The keto diet and your libido
Initially there maybe a dip in your libido (during the keto-flu phase) due to limited carbohydrates and the drop in thyroid function due to restricted carbohydrates. There is also some research which says that a low-carbohydrate diet, will increase cortisol a stress hormone and impact the HPA axis (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal).There is a surge in energy post this phase, once the body gets use to the decrease of carbohydrates it may impact your libido positively. A lot also depends on whether you are older; for example, menopausal women who suffer with low estrogen or testosterone or both, are affected by increased fat consumption, and a keto approach would negatively impact libido.
On a keto diet, because you anyways cut out the stressors in foods like: sugars, refined carbohydrates, and all the junk; this could anyways impact your libido positively as it will give you more energy, due to less sludge in blood condition (usually caused from a build-up of these foods).
Personally, if you look at how your brain works, it relies heavily on glucose, which comes from carbohydrates. My own experience when I have tried switching off carbohydrates has been that I just stop thinking, and get very irritable. Eating carbohydrates have a lot of benefits, the prime one being sustained sugars (good) coming in for 8 hours when you eat them. Also, they help produce serotonin (the feel-good hormone). Thus, deprivation of carbohydrates, may actually not be a boost for your libido.
What really works when it comes to your libido?
Keto diet or any other diet, if the basic nature of your foods is to supply you with nutrients and not rob you of health condition it should serve your libido. A basic diet of whole grains, beans/lentils, lean protein (if you are a non-vegetarian) and shellfish (fatty fish, oyster, crabs, prawns), vegetables (potatoes, leafy greens, ginger), fruit, nuts and seeds (pumpkin seeds) with good quality fermented foods works very well. Topping the basic diet with foods that will boost libido (aphrodisiacs) like: avocados, bananas, figs; adaptogens: shilajit, ginkgo biloba, and yohimbe (an alkaloid found on barks of trees in Africa); dark chocolate; green tea, coffee. Superfoods: maca and ginseng have been known to boost libido as well.